Jerry West is 78 today.
Jerry West was on the fast track to stardom from the day he touched a basketball. Throughout the NBA’s history, it would be hard to find a better pure shooter. At West Virginia University, West led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Finals and captured the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award in 1959. In a superlative senior season, West was a consensus All-America and led West Virginia to its third consecutive conference championship. In Los Angeles, West played virtually his entire career with Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, and five years with Wilt Chamberlain. When the game was on the line, West’s Los Angeles Laker teammates always found a way to get the ball to “Mr. Clutch.” His cool, calm, and collected personality and his leadership on the court was a coach’s dream. When he retired, West’s name was on nearly every page of the record books. He scored 25,192 points (third), averaged 27.0 ppg (fourth), made 7,160 free throws (second), dished out 6,238 assists (fifth). West was equally adept on the defensive end, named to the NBA All-Defensive First-Team four times.
Gladys Knight is 72. The Pips are various ages.
Gladys Knight and the Pips – brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and cousins Edward Patten and William Guest – are one of the most respected and longest-lived soul groups, with hits spanning four decades. Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where she began singing at age four with her brother and cousins at Baptist church functions. The group first recorded for the Brunswick label in 1958 and dented the charts with “Every Beat of My Heart” and “Letter Full of Tears,” both released in 1961 on Fury Records. After a few more singles and personnel changes, which cemented Gladys Knight and the Pips in their most enduring and best-known lineup, the group signed with Motown’s Soul label in 1966. Motown founder Berry Gordy, who saw them perform at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in 1966, made note of Knight’s “class, artistry and stage presence….She could talk to an audience and articulate what she wanted to say with just the right words.”
At Motown, Gladys Knight and the Pips quickly rose to prominence with their version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (#1 R&B, #2 pop), which boasted more of an uptempo, gospel-style arrangement than Marvin Gaye’s classic version from the following year.
John Fogerty is 71 today. Fogerty was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“In 1968, I always used to say that I wanted to make records they would still play on the radio in 10 years,” John Fogerty, former leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival, said on the eve of the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In retrospect, Fogerty got all he wished for and more. Four decades later, Creedence’s songs – including “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Green River” – endure as timeless rock and roll classics. Under Fogerty’s tutelage, Creedence Clearwater Revival defined the spirit and sound of rock and roll as authentically as any American group ever has.
The Dionne Quintuplets were born in Corbeil, Ontario, Canada, 82 years ago today.
- Annette Lillianne Marie Dionne
- Cécile Marie Emilda Dionne
- Emilie Marie Jeanne Dionne (died 1954)
- Marie Reina Alma Dionne (died 1970)
- Yvonne Edouilda Marie Dionne (died 2001)
Together, the five girls, at least two months premature, weighed about 14 pounds. They were put by an open stove to keep warm, and mothers from surrounding villages brought breast milk for them. Against all expectations, they survived their first weeks.
According to the CBC Archives:
When the quints are still babies, the Ontario government takes the sisters from their parents, apparently to protect their fragile health, and makes the girls wards of the state. For the first nine years of their lives, they live at a hospital in their hometown that becomes a tourist mecca called “Quintland.” The Ministry of Public Welfare sets up a trust fund in their behalf with assurances that the financial well-being of the entire Dionne family would be taken care of “for all their normal needs for the rest of their lives.”
Between 1934 and 1943, about 3 million people visit Quintland. The government and nearby businesses make an estimated half-billion dollars off the tourists, much of which the Dionne family never sees. The sisters are the nation’s biggest tourist attraction — bigger than Niagara Falls.
After nine years and a bitter custody fight, the girls rejoined their family.
There is still a mystery surrounding what happened to the money the Ontario government placed in a trust fund for the quints, though it’s believed that most of the funds went to pay for the many employees of “Quintland.”
In 1998 the surviving quints were awarded $4 million by Ontario.
And the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century was born near Prague, Oklahoma, on this date in 1888. His Sac and Fox given name was Wa-Tho-Huk (Bright Path). We know him as Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was named by ESPN as the 7th greatest athlete of the 20th century (after Jordan, Ruth, Ali, Brown, Gretsky and Owens). Read the biographical essay, Thorpe preceded Deion, Bo. A couple of items from the biography:
- Thorpe won both the decathlon and the pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Swedish King Gustav V told him, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe reputedly replied, “Thanks, king.”
- Jim Thorpe was a twin. His brother Charles died of pneumonia at age 8.